Searching for Words, Finding Hope

I’ve lost them, my words.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I know where they are. They’re in my head, racing around at a dizzying pace.

They spend the day building up momentum for the seemingly endless night ahead- unleashing with a force that is as deafening as it is despotic.

And they’re tired and pissed and terrified that they’ll be trapped in there forever.

As am I.

I first blamed their retreat on the holidays. Maybe I was just depressed. Or maybe it was because I was editing other people’s words all day and I didn’t have the energy to come up with my own.

Or maybe I was actually never a writer at all. Maybe it was just a phase or a lifeline to keep me from drifting off to a point from which I couldn’t return.

I tried to exercise patience. I decided, if I couldn’t write, I would spend my time learning how to write instead.

Terrible idea. Everything I read only confirmed it: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Technique, imagery, character development, piecing together a plot? Yeah, I haven’t really been doing any of that. I’ve just been trying to keep my protagonist from falling apart.

Although I did discover that I at least have the five essential elements of ‘a story’ in place: all the characters are ready to go, I have an interesting mix of settings to work with, my plot is established, and there’s most definitely a conflict… in desperate need of a resolution.

It’s that last one, however, the resolution part, that’s the problem. I was sure this whole mess would be resolved by now. Or at least enough of it that any real threat of another maelstrom taking me down was minimal.

But it’s been a year. And things are still so fucking messy. And it still feels bizarre to laugh. And making it through the day without fighting back tears at some point feels equally bizarre.

I push through it. I make sure to smile and do what it takes to distract everyone from noticing what feels like a gaping hole in my chest. But I’m tired, and now, it seems even my words are failing me.

I do, of course, have good days, quite a few in fact. But when they happen, I find myself looking over my shoulder, waiting for disappointment to catch back up with me. It seems I can’t keep ahead of it. And for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if I ever will.

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But it finally hit me last night, why they’ve been trapped. I was walking home, mad at myself for forgetting my gloves and wishing I could better embrace this whole ‘I don’t have a car’ thing. I was just about to dart across the street to beat the approaching cars when something made me stop.

I turned around to retrace my steps and breathed in as deeply as I could, feeling the cold air scraping against my lungs. But nothing.

I realized how ridiculous it was and turned around to head home, then stopped again. There it was.

The smell of orange blossoms.

I closed my eyes.

and felt the uneven cobblestone beneath my feetI gathered up the bottom of my dress to better navigate my way through the crowd, seizing every opportunity to forge ahead without slamming into one of the orange trees lining the street. Flamenco music spilled out of every bar- all packed with locals sipping on manzanilla as they made their way to Feria.

An old man stopped, smiled and tipped his hat as I walked by. His words- infused with the sweet smell of orange blossoms- trailed behind me…

“Ahh, las maravillas de Sevilla’.   (Ah, the wonders of Sevilla)

Adorable+kids+dressed+in+flamenco+dresses+-+Feria+De+Abril,+Seville

I looked around for the source, tilting my head back to study the tree sprawled out above me. Fluorescent lights clung to its thin, rigid branches, turning them an ashen shade of brown, rendering any sign of life impossible.

Reality set back in and the only thing I could smell was fumes coming from the cars behind me. The relentless heaviness that’s been lodged in my chest resumed its place, extinguishing any trace of what had taken me back to a time when desperation seemed impossible.

So this is why I’ve lost my words. Not because a resolution hasn’t surfaced yet, but because I’m starting to believe one never will. I’m starting to lose hope.

When I smelled what I thought was orange blossoms, when I thought back to Sevilla, I got the same feeling I do when I see the first tiny buds appear on the trees after a long winter. Or when I’m walking down the street in a far-off country- foreign words, enchanting music and exotic smells swirling around me. Or when I see the person I love light up when I walk in the room.

Those moments when I want to take everything in all at once, feel it as deeply as I can, and savor the magic of it all.

But going to Spain isn’t an option right now and it feels like it never will be. And green is nowhere to be seen. And the thought of ever falling in love again feels impossible.

Hope is powerful. As opposed to its dark cousin, despair, which paralyzes us, hope energizes and mobilizes us. Beyond that, hope affects those around us, lifting them as well as us.
~ Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D.

The thing is, I don’t write just for me. And I had convinced myself when I got to the other side of this, I could maybe be a source of hope for those who had lost it.

But that was when still had hope, when I still truly believed all that would remain at this point would be a scar- a substantial one to be sure- but the pain would be a distant memory.

Despair is not what I thought would be commanding my thoughts, keeping me up at night and stealing my words. And despair is not what I want to elicit with my words.

I waited for a break in the traffic and darted across the street, landing on the patch of grass underneath my favorite tree.

He had been the highlight of my walk in the fall, greeting me each morning with a new display of colors that were more enchanting than the day before. But now he was stripped bare. He looked cold and lifeless. He looked desperate.

This morning I made it a point to stop again and give him the benefit of daylight.

He didn’t look lifeless at all. He looked strong and peaceful.

And I realized, he isn’t bare. He’s covered in leaves, just beneath the surface, that are simply building up the momentum they need to unleash with a force that will allow them to flourish.

They are there and have been all along, full of hope and wonder. I just can’t see them yet…but they are there.

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“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” ~ Maya Angelou

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Maelstrom

r.druatemer.drowning.                                                                                                                  ~ illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

Do you wish sometimes you had never met me?

No. I wish you had never left me. 

I had to… you would have never left me.

* Maelstrom: A powerful whirlpool in the sea or river. A situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.

Remembering three boys I never knew

A year ago today, thirty minutes from now, three boys died. I hit them with my car, and they all died. I know it wasn’t my fault, most days. I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time. But there are still those moments when an undercurrent of guilt won’t fully submit to logic.

I think about them a lot, although not as much as what might be considered normal. Not because I am callous or unaffected by it. That’s not it at all. I just had to implement an emotional amputation of sorts; this was only one of a series of events that was so unbelievably heartbreaking, distancing myself from it mentally and emotionally was simply what I had to do for survival purposes.

But I think about them, especially on holidays. I think about their families trying to just get them over with. I picture the empty spot at the dinner table they pretend to ignore and the memories that must haunt them when they think about what they were doing this time last year. I think about what I was doing this time last year, which was sitting alone on a balcony in Arlington, Texas, just trying to get it over with, wondering why it was me who lived and not them and kind of wishing it was the other way around.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about three boys who had their whole lives ahead of them. It’s to send out love to them (wherever their souls reside) and their families and friends who miss them terribly. It’s to say that I truly know the pain of having to wake up every morning the first year without them and think about what you were doing that same day last year…when they were still alive…. when they still had their whole lives ahead of them.

It’s to say that I fully feel the weight of it all today, that it breaks my heart, and that I’m so very grateful that it wasn’t me and I still have my life ahead of me.

… but what I wouldn’t give to know that this Thursday there were three less empty spots at the dinner table.

Original Post: The accident (warning: it’s graphic in some parts)

Surrender

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I think it’s time.

‘It’s easier to leave than be left, isn’t it?’

You know it is. You always leave first

               …. you just do it standing still.

                                   * illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

 

Good Intentions

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* Illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

He took it from her, studying it closely.

“I think it’s broken”.

It is, she said.

“I can try to fix it”.

They tried, she responded.

“Well, I haven’t”.

No, you haven’t, she hoped.

I hate you because I love you (published in Elephant Journal)

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I hate to inundate you with hate here, but I had no idea this was published in Elephant Journal back in August. I hate you because I love you

Promise, no more hating after this!!! (And god, the picture is a bit dramatic… no say in that department!)

I tried, but it’s raining

I decided this weekend I was going to write something funny. (I am, you know. I mean, I can be). But it’s raining, and it’s been raining for two days straight. Who can be funny when it’s raining?

I contemplated putting this off and being funny tomorrow. Forecast for tomorrow: rain, all day.

So funny. Okay, well, I made an honest attempt to ride my bike while holding an umbrella. That might have made someone laugh. I didn’t, though. Because it’s effing cold, and my rain jacket and favorite boots are in the bottom of god knows what box.

So I arrived at the coffee shop later than I wanted to, wet, cold…and not funny.

I’m sure there is some eye-rolling going on. It rains here like 2 days a year. Most people are almost giddy, relishing in the anomaly and blatant reminder that fall is upon us. And all I can do is think of the last time I was cold and wet.

It was January. I was in Texas, completely alone and utterly heartbroken. And it almost took me under.

I had fallen for someone who changed his mind, risked everything and lost so much more. So there I was, packing up all of my things, yet again, trying to figure out where to go. Did it even matter? There was no home to go back to and no one waiting for me to come home…except Biscuit.

But it’s not January anymore, Brooke. It’s September, 9 months later. And it’s fall. You love fall. It’s your favorite. People associate it with death and decay, but for me, it’s pumpkins. It’s crisp mornings, chunky sweaters and my favorite boots. It’s Halloween decorations and the crunch of leaves under my favorite boots. It’s snuggled up next to a warm fire with the person I love. And it’s Biscuit, sitting on top of a big pile of leaves, his red-orange fur blending in with the autumn colors all around him.

But my chunky sweaters and favorite boots are still in boxes that I admittedly haven’t had the stomach to unpack one more fucking time. And I got rid of most of my decorations because, to be honest, when you’re packing up all of your shit for the 7th time, they seem like the perfect thing to not have to carry up another flight of stairs or cram into a 400-hundred-something square foot space. And the warm fire, well it’s in the house I used to live in with my amazing husband, who is no longer my husband. And Biscuit, well, he’s dead.

So I guess this year, fall is about death because most of the things I loved last fall don’t exist anymore.

This isn’t funny, is it? Like not at all. But shit, it’s still fucking raining outside.

Okay, let’s shelf death and heartache for a beat, shall we? I wanted to make you laugh, not cry. Which I will say is one obvious perk to this weather. It’s hard to differentiate tears from raindrops.

Tears and raindrops. It really is kinda funny in a crazy, can’t really get my head around it way. It’s all water, which literally dictates whether life exists or not. But it can also take it away in a matter of seconds. It can wipe out entire villages, kill tens of thousands of people, and take you under with a force that makes breath seem like it was never an option.

But it can also bring you to a state of complete bliss within seconds. A cold sip of water on a hot day, or a hot bath on a cold night. Watching it dance across the rocks of a river bed or letting the sound of the waves kissing the sand lull you to sleep.

The ultimate paradox. You need it to live, but it’s responsible for so much death. It can bring you sheer joy or cause excruciating pain. It often can’t be seen but is always present. And it never dissipates. It changes, adapts to its circumstances, but it never diminishes. It is everywhere, all around us, but so many die because they are deprived of it. As it turns out, it is disturbingly similar to the very thing that always seems to end with tears, at least of late.

Which brings me right back to fall. A love, a dream, and a precious puppy all synced up with the season, their decomposition swift, and all I could do was stand by, completely powerless, and watch…. and cry and scream and completely fall apart as they slipped further and further away until all that was left was a mound of dirt covering up a hole that I so desperately wanted to crawl into.

So here I am. Staring at this puppy next to me who is snuggled up under his person’s feet, looking down at my feet, wishing I had my favorite pair of boots on because mine are wet and my toes are cold. And I’m right back to the last time I was cold and wet. And I think of Texas and my puppy sitting in the leaves, and…

It’s funny in a it’s not really at all way, how predictable it all is. The whole cyclical thing: water, seasons, life, love…

Love, that’s what it always comes back to, where it all started. The impetus that seems to always propel me into motion, the very thing I live and breathe for, a joy like I’ve never experienced, followed by a pain so unbearable I almost wish my heart would stop, the feeling at least.

The ultimate paradox, like water, I need it to live, but it has resulted in so much loss. Some days, I feel completely depleted, yet none of it disappeared. Not a drop. It has changed, it had to; circumstances have changed a bit. It can’t be seen anymore. But it hasn’t diminished. It’s just as it was before, filling me up completely and leaving me gasping for air.

Okay, I missed my target with this one. But I’ll try again next week.

Forecast: Sunny, all week.

—-

An Addendum of sorts: Please take a minute to read Brandewijn Words latest post, Perspective. I’m beyond honored to be a part of it and think his perspective is beautiful and kind and so very needed. It just gets so easy to slip into judgment mode, to drift towards entitlement and self-righteousness contingent on our vantage point.

He ends with this, and it absolutely humbles me, but is also was a beautiful reminder. We truly are all in this together.

I make this promise to Brooke and to all of you. I will dig…deep…into her honest “telling of events” to find her and try to understand her world of this or thats. Because that is her world and her perspective… And those are the only ones that matters and the only ones I need to know.

That’s sums it up, right? Not his promise to me, but his commitment to question his vantage point, to do his best to know someone’s story and check himself when he makes an assumption or judgment…ultimately, to come from a place of empathy. Because we each have our story, right, with so many layers it gets complicated and messy, and we fuck up and do things that we regret. We hurt people, we hurt ourselves. intentionally or unintentionally. But the beautiful thing is, we get the gift of and have the capacity to step back and check ourselves, to shift our position and do what we can to understand why someone says or behaves the way they do. To practice empathy.

Desert Curmudgeon sums this up so eloquently in Yippie! We’re all Gonna Die:

Those of us who care do so because we can’t but feel otherwise if we are being honest with ourselves. There is no escape from the vulnerability of interdependence. I breathe because you do. 

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